What do you want in life, and how do you plan to get it? Proverbs 11.16 says,

A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches.

In this proverb Solomon makes three contrasts that address what we want and how we get it.

Contrast #1 is the difference between men and women. Solomon assumed his readers would see that. Men think the solution to anything is a bigger hammer. Men don’t use maps. Men will square off at the drop of a hat. Women, however, are usually humble enough to ask for help. They tend to be more patient. They seldom resort to force.

Contrast #2 is the difference between methods of acquisition. Solomon observes that women obtain by graciousness, kindness, and gentleness. Men obtain men by brute force, aggressiveness, and ruthlessness.

Contrast #3 is the difference between what they obtain. Women acquire honor, respect, and esteem as the outcome of their graciousness. Men get money or power or position or prestige.

By using these three contrasts, Solomon invites us to think about how we get what we want.

It’s worth noting that the Book of Proverbs doesn’t have a problem with riches, per se. Proverbs 22.4 says, “The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor, and life.” The important thing, however, is the motivation and the method. A person who’s motivated by his relationship to God, and who does things honorably, will be blessed.

One side point: Critics of the Bible often complain that the Bible is sexist and misogynistic. This proverb demonstrates otherwise. It recognizes the woman as being superior to the male, in what she seeks, in how she seeks it, and in her overall character. There’s no sexism here.

Every day, we make decisions about what we want and how to get it. This proverb reminds us that the best things in life aren’t always monetary, and that the best ways of getting things aren’t always related to raw ambition.

So then, what do you really want in life, and how do you plan to get it? Choose wisely.